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Snake Care

All About Snake Care

Each year many people get a pet snake only to discover that they are not really interested at all in snake care. Snakes have the same needs as any other pet or even human being, for that matter--food, clean water to drink, a safe shelter, the correct temperature, and medical attention.

The first thing a pet snake needs in appropriate shelter. That means they must be given enough space to live depending on their size. The pet store or breeder can give you the best advice on how large the snake is going to be and how much room it needs. Large snakes are often housed in glass aquariums and this is a great shelter for any size snake. Make sure that the tank has a secure lid that the snake will not be able to push up and down and eventually escape. Always be knowledgeable about what you are buying and ask questions. Some pet stores have even been known to stunt the growth of a reptile so that it will look cute and get purchased, and they may not be up front with what size the snake will be as an adult. If in doubt, find out what type of snake it is and do a little research on the internet or at the library.

Within the tank, your snake needs to have some type of box within which it can hide. They should also have a branch on which to climb and rest. If you wish to save on expenses and provide a branch from outdoors you will need to sterilize it. There are several choices as to the substrate used on the bottom of the tank.  Never use cedar chips because they are toxic, but pine chips or cypress mulch will work well. These are handy because you can scoop out urine and feces and put in new chips easily. Types of indoor/outdoor carpeting and Astroturf ™ are available as well. You will need at least two pieces so that one can be in the tank while the other is washed and dried. Soiled bedding must be removed frequently so that your snake does not get sick from bacteria.

Another element of snake care is keeping the tank the right temperature. As snakes are cold blooded they cannot regulate their own body temperature. That means they have to have a warm place and a cool place in their home. Many snakes cannot digest their food if the temperature is not at least 75 to 85 degrees. A heating pad for people, such as you can buy at a drugstore, will work in this situation. Place it underneath one side of thre tank. Set it on low or medium and get a little thermometer that self-adheres to glass and place it approximately one-inch above the bottom of the tank. Make sure that you check regularly to see that this side of the tank is warm.

Feeding is a part of snake care that must receive considerable attention. Most snakes have to eat at least once every ten days. You will have to experiment with how often to feed your snake and how much food to give it. Unless you buy a type of snake that specifically only eats live prey, all food you give to your snake should be already killed. Most people buy frozen mice in bulk quantity to feed to snakes. Really huge snakes can be fed rats. All food should be defrosted before feeding. Some snakes will eat prey that is placed in the tank but some won’t. The best way to feed a snake is to pick the mouse up with tongs and dangle it by the tail in front of the snake so that the snake will strike out at it. Always make sure that your snake has fresh, clean water at all times even if you never see it drink. The snake will use the water for both drinking and bathing.

Snakes get sick just like every other creature so make sure that you find a reptile vet you can go to when this happens. When you get your new snake, collect some feces in a plastic bag and take it to the vet for testing. Worms, bacteria, and protozoa can not only make your snake sick, they can also make you sick. If you snake stops eating, regurgitates its food, or stops moving around, get it to a vet right away. Parasites, infections, and other conditions can lead to dehydration and death so immediate treatment is necessary.

When you get a snake make sure you are aware of what is involved in taking care of it. A snake is a big responsibility just like any other pet. On top of that a snake comes with more potential problems than a puppy. A lot of people are terrified of snakes and that fear will not go away, so make sure people you invite over are aware that you keep a snake. And, if you don’t live alone, make sure your family or housemates are OK with having a snake present. The presence of dead mice in the freezer might be disconcerting to some, plus you need a backup who is comfortable with feeding your snake if you go away.  So, think about these things before you get a snake. With proper snake care, your pet snake can have a long and healthy life.




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